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Al Jazeera Forum:Can the Blogosphere Affect Societal and Political Change?

12/03/2011

Live blogging…

Al Jazeera host : “There has been a lot of analysis on the role of Social Media (SM) in Egypt and Tunisia, I think everybody can agree that SM played a role in the revolutions, but it was only a tool in which the youth, bloggers were able to utilize to bring change. Can this change be sustained? What will the role of the youth in Libya be? In Egypt we had a lot more bloggers, there was information overload, we don’t have the same relationship with Libya and to an extent our relationship with Libya is less personal as a result.”

“Criticism of bloggers is that they were middle class, elitist, lacked quality but we have seen that when bloggers took up a cause they were able to capture the attention of millions. The revolution was televised, tweeted and blogged but the heros of these revolutions is not Al Jazeera, FB or Twitter. It is the youth”

The panel is now discussing the role of bloggers post the revolutions in smaller groups. i.e will they remain a loose network of individuals or will they become more involved in traditional civil society, advocacy organizations or remain a loose network of individuals working for the common good?

Points that have emerged from the group discussions.

1- one of the interesting aspects of the current situation is the very evolution of the way in which people are interacting with these tools and the SM platforms are flexible enough for them to be used in crisis situations and can quickly revert to their normal use.

2-Centralisation at a high level… bringing down a regime using a distributed system is hard but its easy to disseminate a single message i.e. “Bring down the regime.” But after the revolution its even harder, developing policy, etc.

3.Public Sphere was traditionally centralised with TV and Newspapers. Now it is decentralised – it makes the public sphere stronger because everyone can have a say but also weaker because so many people are talking

4.The events in Iran showed people how to use SM when it comes to revolution and it was picked up by People on the ground in Tunisia, etc. They were taking videos, pictures, etc. to show what they were doing in addition to what they were thinking. This hasn’t only happened over the last few months… these thoughts have been articulating for years.”

5.The youth think there is no justification for a “Silent Majority”. With new technology not speaking out is no excuse.

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Malcolm Gladwell (not attending) said that Social Media can begin social change, but can it maintain it?

We are able to present the stories of People on the ground in Morocco. Social Media is like putting a Formula 1 Engine into the Revolution. If we didn’t have it I don’t think the revolution we’ve seen would’ve reached critical mass. – Hisham @

In Iran where there are no public platforms for people to speak freely, Social Media provides those platforms. You see discussions made around Facebook and Twitter which are totally taboo via any other media. – Iranian journalist Golnaz Esfandiari

Ramsay George – Social Media and All tools used in the past for revolutions are part of an ecology or part of a system in which information is disseminated on a large scales. In Iran they were using Cassette tapes and Xerox Machines, and today they’re using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

An economic explanation. Twenty years ago, reaching 50,000 people nationwide was expensive for activists. Now, it’s affordable. (From @Kabobfest)

@Wedady said he realised the power of Twitter when he saw what had happened in Iran, not so much its capacity to start a revolution but the effect it had on Western Media.

Social Media also creates a tie between expats and the people within the countries. This is also an important aspect.

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